|Nature vacations in Lake
County, Ohio's Holden Arboretum
By Regis Behe
Sunday, August 10, 2003
By name alone, Lake County, Ohio, evokes
images of beaches, swimming and sun.
Those recreations are available in the small county that borders Lake Erie
about 20 miles east of Cleveland, and is less than three hours from
Pittsburgh. But there's more to do than get a tan and frolic in the surf.
Start off by thinking green. Call it ecotourism or pastoral pastimes, the
region is filled with attractions that are friendly to the environment and
don't require standing in lines for high-flying rides that are over in
Lake County's emerald-colored gem is Holden Arboretum, a nature preserve
located in Kirtland. Featuring stunning vistas and areas of quiet,
contemplative beauty, the arboretum is the largest in the United States,
and one of the largest in the world, with more than 6,000 varieties of
plants and trees and spread over 3,446 acres.
Curators call it an "outdoor tree museum," where cedars of Lebanon,
Ponderosa pines, paw paw trees and Japanese tree lilacs are among the
species on the grounds. Two senior citizens -- a 375-year-old white oak,
and a red oak that's estimated to be 275 years old -- are must-see
attractions. The arboretum is also involved in a project that is
attempting to regenerate American chestnut trees, which were ravaged by
blight in the first half of the 20th century.
Just outside the site's visitor center is the new Butterfly Garden, which
is aflutter with the winged creatures in late summer through early
September. A short walk away is the Display Garden, which features lilacs
and viburnums; during the summer months 800 varieties of various
Within the Display Garden is the Hedge Garden. Showcasing 27 different
hedge varieties ranging from 2 to 8 feet in height, the thickets are
pruned and cut to show hedge enthusiasts proper maintenance techniques.
Because Lake County is on the same latitude with China, there are a number
of Asian plant varieties on the grounds, including Butterfly bushes ,
Japanese pagoda trees and golden rain trees. Scattered throughout the
grounds are 26 man-made ponds that are aesthetically pleasing and used for
studying various ecosystems. The Blueberry Pond is one of the most
aromatic areas at Holden due to the sweet bay magnolias that are nearby.
In August and September, the Prairie Garden area is in full bloom. And
September through October is spectacular at the arboretum, with a special
trail for tree identification and leaf collecting. Free tours of "Holden
Highlights" are available at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 13
There's so much to see on the grounds that it's almost impossible to take
in during a single visit. For those who are adventurous and have the time,
the best way to see Holden Arboretum is via the 20 miles of walking trails
that meander through the grounds. Visitors with less time or with health
problems might want to try the guided tram tours that are available.
But however one traverses the park, make sure to breathe deeply; there are
so many fresh, aromatic plants and flowers that Holden Arboretum is just
as much an olfactory pleasure as it is visual delight.
Other Lake County attractions
Headlands Beach State Park, Mentor. This mile-long stretch of sand
on Lake Erie is Ohio's longest natural beach, and one of it's most scenic
with a block-style lighthouse that sits at its eastern edge. Sunbathing
available, Headlands is rustic and maintained in a natural state. It's
also home to a variety of plant species -- including beach pea, sea rocket
and crown vetch -- that are commonly found along the Atlantic coast. But
due to glacial conditions and the presence of Headland Dunes Nature
Preserve within the state park boundaries, these plants thrive miles from
their natural East Coast habitat. Ducks, geese, deer and fox inhabit the
area, and Headlands beach is a prime spot for spotting migrating birds and
monarch butterflies. Hours: One half hour before sunrise to one half hour
after sunset, year round. Free.
Details: (440) 257-1331 or online.
Mentor Lagoon Nature Preserve and Marina, 8635 Harbor Drive,
Mentor. A city-owned facility that is free to the public, Mentor Lagoon
Nature Preserve is a 450-acre site. The preserve has 1.5 miles of Lake
Erie shoreline that features rare dune plants, a riverine marsh and a
large forest bluff area. Teeming with wildlife, the preserve serves as a
breeding ground for waterfowl, and provides an important rest area -- and
prime birdwatching spot -- for migratory species crossing Lake Erie during
the spring and fall. The marina offers spaces for boats up to 50 feet in
length. Transient docking is available for a fee. Hours: Sunrise to
sunset, year-round. Free.
Details: (404) 205-3625 or online.
Regis Behe can be reached at email@example.com or (412)320-7990.
click to enlarge
The new Arlene and Arthur S. Holden Butterfly Garden
Ian Adams/ The Holden Arboretum
click to enlarge
Late summer sun brings out the color in the butterfly garden.
Ian Adams/ The Holden Arboretum
9500 Sperry Road, Kirtland, Ohio.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Admission: $4; $3 for senior citizens; $2 for children 6 to 15; free to
children under six.
Directions: The Holden Arboretum is in Kirtland, Ohio, approximately 125
miles from Pittsburgh. From the Pennsylvania Turnpike, drive west to the
Ohio Turnpike. Take Ohio Exit 44, and keep left. Turn left on to Ohio
route 44, then turn left onto Washington Street (Cr-606), then turn right
on Auburn Road (CR-4). Make a slight left at Mentor Road (CR-5), then left
on Wisner Road. Turn right onto Mitchells Mills Road, which takes you to
Sperry Road and the Holden Arboretum.
Details: (440) 946-4400, or